In a packed Minnesota State High School League board room in Brooklyn Center on Thursday, the league Board of Directors passed a policy to guide member schools regarding male-to-female transgender students.
“What the board did was just respond to questions that had come from member schools about eligibility issues and put the provision in place with the fair hearing procedure when eligibility is denied and students want an opportunity to have someone review the information regarding their particular status,” MSHSL Executive Director Dave Stead said. “It was identified for a very narrow, narrow, narrow group of people.”
Originally, the policy began as one guiding schools regarding all transgender students. Through many revisions, the policy became one focusing on male-to-female transgender students due in part to heavy public feedback and girls already being allowed to compete on boys teams.
While the board voted in favor of the policy, Emmett Keenan of Section 5-6A from St. Cloud Cathedral High School voted against it. He told the board he couldn’t vote in favor because of his representation of private and religious-based schools. According to the newest Dec. 3 draft, religious institutions will be exempt from the policy.
The vote concluded months of deliberation by the board and hearing from the public and qualified speakers on both sides of the issue. Supporters and opponents jammed the board room full on Thursday again as they did in October’s meeting. Unlike the last meeting, the board came to conclusion.
“The emotion was overwhelming – yes, it passed,” Seth Thompson of Maple Grove said.
Thompson, a transgender female-to-male, had competed in swimming and lacrosse with the Crimson prior to schooling with the Minnesota Virtual Online School. Thompson now competes in debate. His mother, Janae Winegarden, said his identifying as transgender factored into no longer competing with the Crimson.
“He hadn’t come out yet, but it was that sense of feeling being accepted,” Winegarden said. “Not that he was bullied on those teams. I think some of it is because you feel like you’re not really [female], when your core is different than your body is.”
Supporters of the policy cheered loudly once they realized the policy passed after a lengthy discussion by the board on the policy and its effective date. The policy will take effect on July 1, 2015 for the 2015-2016 school year.
Speakers on both sides of the issue presented to the board before its final discussion and vote. While opponents of the issue did not get the result they looked for, leaders such as Minnesota Family Council Director of Policy and Communications Autumn Leva hope for more dialogue.
“We need a time of seeing what language it was that actually got passed today because that wasn’t entirely clear,” Leva said.
A new draft of the policy came out at Wednesday’s board workshop. In the newest draft, the sixth overall, the policy only addresses eligibility procedures for male-to-female transgender athletes.
The board voted to pass that Dec. 4 draft and have a copy sent to all member schools.
Similar to previous versions of the policy, the appeal process begins at the school level where transgender MTF students must provide documentation to be approved for competition. The documentation includes transcripts, statements from the parent(s)/legal guardian(s), teachers/friends and a qualified health care professional.
An Independent Hearing Officer will review each case after the student’s information comes to the MSHSL from the respective school. According to the document, the officer may communicate with various applicable government organizations and consult applicable laws to make a determination. Then, the MSHSL board review the officer’s findings at its next meeting.
The document states that the student’s eligibility based on gender identity will be upheld, “for the balance of the student’s high school eligibility.”
The policy takes effect on July 1 in 2015 for the 2015-2016 school year.
Contact Matthew Davis at [email protected]